On the way up to legendary art dealer Michael Werner's Upper East Side gallery abode in New York I'm at ease and ready to lose myself in Markus Lüpertz’ New Paintings. But as I walk into the building, I'm already overwhelmed by the old school glam of the spiral staircase with its red plush carpeting, and begin to understand a bit more about his gallery and it's chosen artists.
I should begin by saying that Markus Lüpertz (German, born 1941), is an important, full throttle neo-expressionist. His masculine territoriality makes the opposite sex feel, well, quite opposite. His paintings are so visually intense that they need two or more frames to contain them. There is something wholly brutish in this style of painting that plucks at romantic expression in that, the painting demystifies the primordial dream unveiled before me in both superficial and complex terms; it is quite a meal for my eyes.
This is my favourite painting. I cannot stop staring at it; I'm entirely taken. Out of the three rooms and one corridor of paintings hanging on the walls, this is the one I gravitate to time and again.
Perhaps it's the prevalent motif of Arcadia and Romanticism that I'm drawn to. Perhaps it's the stark contrast of vulnerability from the nude woman against the strong masculine sculptural head. Perhaps it’s that I see the dark bold brush strokes of the woods as ominous and I feel for the man's anguish in this very moment. I want to warn the maiden of everything that is to come. I want her to see the man's face and understand what is happening. I want desperately to surrender myself to this painting and fix the world I see within it: to add colour or to return it to pastoral simplicity and harmony.
This is my second favorite. The juxtaposition of life and death; pride and humility; flesh and bone; opposing complementary colors; hard and soft brush strokes; painting style and vividness keeps me rooted and reminds me of just how delicately balanced my own life is. The Great Narcissus also reminds me how fragile our psyche is.
Plus, I love the painting in frame in another frame. The most immediate frame containing the painting acts as an extended painted border of the canvas, as if the painting cannot help itself, and cannot be contained, like life itself.
As an ensemble, the works in this exhibition are an immersive collective of Lupertz' masterful understanding and response to mythology, german history and his personal life. Giving us, the viewer, something to gravitate to and respond to over time.
Two important exhibitions on Markus Lupertz open in Washington DC this week:
A comprehensive survey of works at the Phillips Collection http://www.phillipscollection.org/events/2017-05-27-exhibition-markus-lupertz coinciding with Markus Lupertz: Threads of History (May 27–September 3), https://hirshhorn.si.edu/collection/upcoming-exhibitions/#detail=/bio/markus-lupertz-threads-history/